At the heart of every Corvette is a rip-roaring, fire-spitting V8. Anything else would be tantamount to treason, causing marches on Bowling Green calling for blood and the ashes of Zora Arkus-Duntov. The new LT5 might be named in honor of the 1990 ZR-1's (C4 had the hyphen) engine, but eschews that V8's dual-overhead cams. Instead, this pushrod V8 uses an Eaton supercharger that's 52-percent larger than the one on the Z06. The throttle body has a diameter of nearly 4 inches. All in, the LT5 makes 755 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 715 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. That's a 300-horsepower leap over the base Corvette.
In addition to the extra displacement from the blower, the LT5 makes use of both direct and port fuel injection. Not only should this help fuel flow, it should slow the carbon buildup that occurs with direct-injected engines. It uses a more efficient intercooler, too, helping prevent the heat-soak issues that plagued the Z06. The supercharger and intercooler are so large that the hood is open in the middle, raising a big middle finger to pedestrian crash standards. It sits three inches higher than the standard car. The whole front end has been honed and shaped to feed air into the engine and driveline. Four new radiators bring the total to 13.
Power is sent to the rear wheels through either a seven-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic. Both are the same as the ones found in the Z06, gear ratios and all. If it follows the Z06's trend, the car might actually be quicker if you let the computer handle the shifting. Still, save the manuals and all that jazz. Tadge Juechter, chief Corvette executive engineer, says that the manual is more robust and the preferred option for track use.
Still, all the power in the world means jack if you can't put it down. Look at the lengths Dodge had to go to with the Demon. With the ZR1, it's all about aero, hence the splitter and rear wing. Downforce without drag was key, and it seems to have worked. Like the Z06, there are multiple aero packages for the ZR1. The standard low-wing setup delivers 70-percent more downforce than a base Z06. Top speed with the low wing is 210 miles per hour. It also makes it far easier to access the rear cargo area.
The two-way adjustable high-wing kit lowers the top speed but gives the car 60-percent more downforce than a Z06 with the Z07 package. A few bolts on the stanchion allow for five degrees of adjustment. The wing is mounted to the chassis to prevent cracking the hatch under load. Every ZR1 comes with a new underwing. The Corvette team looked at having an active rear wing. The idea was nixed after considering packaging and weight issues. Juechter said that because an active rear wing can provide low drag and high downforce when it's up they decided to "just leave the damn thing up." Underbody aero was developed with the Corvette Racing team. Balancing the big rear wing required more aero up front, so an inverted airfoil aids without having a giant shelf out front.
The high wing is part of the ZTK Performance Package ( Chevy loves its build codes). Juechter and Chief Designer Tom Peters say the ZTK package is equivalent to the Z07 package on the Corvette Z06. In addition to the airplane appendage, the ZTK kit adds a front splitter with carbon-fiber end caps, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (the same ones that are on the Z06) and different tuning for the chassis and Magnetic Ride Control. That's right. No fancy spool-valve shocks like on the Camaro ZL1 1LE. The ZR1 uses a short/long arm double wishbone setup with cast aluminum control arms and transverse-mounted composite springs both front and rear. It is a Corvette after all.
While Pilot Sport Cup 2s are optional, the car comes standard with Pilot Super Sport run flats. The staggered setup - P285/30ZR19s up front and P355/25ZR20s out back - cover carbon-ceramic brakes with calipers the size of Dwayne Johnson's forearm. With the Cup 2s, expect 60 to 0 mph stops of fewer than 90 feet, real world-class stuff.
The debut ZR1 comes in a special Sebring Orange Design Package that adds orange paint and brake calipers and orange stripes on the rocker panel and splitter. Inside, the car gets orange seat belts, orange stitching and bronze aluminum trim. In addition to the performance parts, all ZR1s are available with heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats, a carbon-fiber rimmed steering wheel, a Bose stereo and GM's Performance Data Recorder. Like other Corvettes, the ZR1 is available with multiple seats with varying degrees of bolstering.
The car goes on sale next spring. Pricing hasn't been announced, but expect it to start around $120,000. Yes, that's a lot for a Corvette or any Chevy for that matter, but a huge bargain when compared to the competitive set. While it hasn't been revealed, look for a convertible version to follow sometime soon. We've seen that car running around Detroit. Sure, some were hoping for a little more out of the car. Maybe a surprise like dual-overhead cams or a hybrid system. This is impressive, if a bit unsurprising. Still, if this is it for the front-engine 'Vette, it's going out with one hell of a bang.